Merchant ship numbering

Discussion in 'War at Sea' started by Brigsy, Jul 15, 2017.

  1. Brigsy

    Brigsy Member


    I am trying to identify the 6 ships from Convoy KMS7G which transported the 24th Res MT Companies (later 347 GT Company) vehicles and equipment from the Clyde to Algiers in January 1943.

    The Company War Diary quotes the ships only as H111, H114, H116, H117, H120 & H121 but unfortunately does not provide any names. I do have the names of the 23 ships from the convoy which docked in Algiers but have been unable to narrow it down any further.

    My Fathers unit later moved to Italy and whilst he travelled in LCI (L)103, their vehicles and equipment travelled in Convoy AH4, the War Diary this time noting the vessels as being HH23 - SS Jacob H Gallinger and HH25 - SS Fridtjof Nansen.
    This numbering is further emphasized by an extract from my Uncles 93 Squadron ORB which states only that the Squadron personnel travelled in ship P114. I know from talking to him that he travelled aboard the SS Bergensfjord in Convoy KMF3 whose cruising position was 23 (taken from Convoyweb) so what is P114?

    Can anyone shed any light on this numbering system?

    Many thanks,

  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

    CL1 likes this.
  3. Brigsy

    Brigsy Member

    Hi TD,

    Sorry for the delay in responding, have been away on holiday.

    Many thanks for the link but I have already been down that avenue. CONVOYWEB database has been very useful as a starting point but has required a lot of further work to sort out the actual numbers of ships involved and the routings and it does not have any reference to the individual ship numbering system that I am struggling with.

    CONVOYWEB has a total of 63 ships listed for this convoy but when you look closer it is much more complicated that at first sight. 52 ships left the Clyde of which 3 returned and 2 detached to Lisbon leaving 47 to arrive in Gibraltar. 12 more detached in Gib joining TE14 reducing the number further to 35. KMS7G was then joined by 1 from KMS6G, 8 from KX8 (ex Milford Haven) and 1 (possibly 2) from TMF1 making 45 (or 46) to continue to North Africa. 1 was sunk en route so 44 (or 45) arrived of the coast of North Africa where they docked at various ports. The oddball one is the Vanja, ex TMF1 which I have been unable to confirm and may or may not have joined KMS7G, it is in any case a Tanker so is of no interest to me for the purposes of this investigation.
    I am only interested in the freighters which docked in Algiers of which there were 23 as previously stated but I can not match any of them to the numbers H111, H114, H116, H117, H120 & H121 found in the Company War Diary.

    Hopefully someone out there will have the answer to the mystery numbers,

    Many thanks for your response,

  4. 379/101 HAA

    379/101 HAA Ubique


    Your only real hope is probably what you can dig out of the National Archives at Kew on the convoys you`re interested in and see if they contain any tie-ups. I had the same issues with a convoy I was researching and had to go to Kew eventually and copy all the convoy reports, even then it`s not a simple task.

    As you`re probably aware, each convoy allocated mercantile ships with an individual code letter such as HMT. G1, HMT.G2 etc. This was for security reason and R/T procedures as they obviously didn`t want to give away a vessel`s name in "the clear". Also for reasons of security, every convoy allocated these numbers randomly so for instance in the next one that sailed the vessels might be HMT. E1, HMT. E2 and so on. I`m assuming that your H111, H1114, etc. are based on this procedure. The escorts were also allocated numbers such as D1. D2 etc.

    Searching through the Convoy reports, reports of proceedings (if they exist), sometimes shows tie-ups between the vessel`s name and it`s unique number. Sometimes they are also listed on the Convoy sailing order form A.1, but not often because obviously the sailing order went on each ship.

    I had a quick look in the National Archive Database and it looks a bit sparse on some of your convoys. I couldn`t find a specific reference to KMS 7G but it may well be buried in one of these:

    K.M.S., M.K.S., W.S., O.S. and S.L. convoys: reports | The National Archives

    S.L., K.M.S. and M.K.S. convoys: reports | The National Archives

    S.L., K.M.S. and M.K.S. convoys: reports | The National Archives

    K.M.S., M.K.S., W.S., O.S. and S.L. convoys: reports | The National Archives

    I guess you`ve also tried this section on the Convoy website?

    Arnold Hague Ports database

    I haven`t looked into it closely but I think KMS.7G arrived in Algiers 21.01.43. When you put that port and date into the search engine it shows a list of vessels arriving as part of KMS.7G. You can click on the name of each vessel and see it`s route to Algiers and one would assume you can exclude those that joined via Gib` etc. as it would seem logic that the ships you`re intrested in would sail direct from the Clyde. That might whittle the list down a little towards identifying H111, H114, H116, H117, H120 & H121. Then perhaps you could look at the remaining vessels and see if any could be eliminated on the grounds they were not the correct sort of vessel? I don`t know, it`s all a bit hypothetical but I do know you have to think out of the box with these things sometimes.

    I hope some of this helps in some small way.

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  5. Brigsy

    Brigsy Member

    Hi John,

    Many thanks for your response it has given me something else to think about as I hadn't considered the possible security aspects of the allocated numbers but it certainly makes sense now that I think about it.

    I 've been struggling with this issue for a long time now and have spent a considerable amount of time using Convoyweb etc to whittle down the number of ships to the 23 that I know unloaded in Algiers itself. The remainder unloaded at various ports including Philipville, Oran, Bone, Bougie etc. I have also been working on their UK ports of origin which included Liverpool, Swansea, Newport, Avonmouth and Penarth. Convoy KMS7G also picked up 8 ships at Gibraltar from convoy KX8 which had originated in Milford Haven.

    What doesn't help me at all is the fact that the War dairies for my Fathers unit (24th Res Mt Coy R.A.S.C) have a gap just prior to embarkation which was 7th Jan 1943 at Gouroch (my Father sailed on MS Batory in fast convoy KMF7). For some reason the diary for 1942 ends at 31st October and it begins again at the beginning of Jan 43. The final Oct entry has them moving from Scotland to Norfolk for training prior to going overseas and presumably somewhere at the end of this they would have delivered their vehicles etc to the ports for loading, but which ports? I have obtained a copy of a personal account of one of the drivers which is lodged at the IWM and that simply says "delivered to various ports".

    I think that I have gone about as far as I can with this and unless something new turns up out of the blue I now doubt very much that I will ever be able to identify the 6 ships involved. My Brother is going to Kew next week on an unrelated matter and I may ask him to look at the Convoy files that you have highlighted if he has time but other than that I think I will have to park it for the foreseeable future.

    Many thanks again for your input,

  6. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    It might be worth looking at the Movement Cards for the ships that you have identified as arriving at Algiers.
  7. Brigsy

    Brigsy Member

    Been down that route Roy. Tried a selection from the 23 ships that unloaded in Algiers but apart from recording the port of loading and departure etc there is not much else.
    There is one common factor however between those that I have seen and that is they all record the following entry in red "allocated or re-allocated to S.T.A.6.A. special military service". Not sure what exactly this reference is but as it appears several times in some ships records I guess that it may be convoy related.
  8. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Hi David,
    Thought you might have. I am never sure about these STA numbers, but all the Movement Cards are littered with them. Must be different branches of of the 'Sea Transport Authority', or something like that. STA 6 seems to have mostly been MT, while STA 2, in the instance I found it, was carriage of aircraft.

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